Yesterday's prompt (which was really an earlier prompt on Robert Lee Brewer's blog) was fun for me. I strayed away from it, in that I used a line, the first sentence actually, from Moby Dick to get me started. And I didn't change it. Well, I actually didn't do that prompt, did I? But it inspired a poem that wove in Moby Dick and all sorts of elusive quests and unfinished projects.
I keep thinking about literary works that inspire other works, literary and otherwise. Have you heard about the new book which combines Pride and Prejudice with a zombie narrative? When I first started hearing about it, I assumed it was an April Fool's Day prank. But now, I keep hearing about it, and just read a great article in The Washington Post. Go here to read it--it's got some great ideas about why Jane Austen is so timeless and why it's Jane Austen, rather than some of my other favorites from grad school (like Charlotte Bronte) who don't seem to find themselves similarly transformed.
I often return to the works of others for inspiration and for allusions. Alas, now that I'm not teaching as much literature, I don't have as much inspiration coming from that direction.
Maybe it's for the best. My poems often referenced works of literature that are fairly obscure to the general public (unlike Moby Dick, which I hope the general public still recognizes, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out if they didn't). I know that the general public hates feeling stupid, so poems that reference literary works they've never heard of might be a bad career move.
Did I really just type the words "career move" when talking about writing poems? Yes, I did. I'll wait a moment for the hysterical laughter to subside.
The part of being a poet that I really love is that I'm writing poetry for me, and hopefully for a select audience who will love what I do. There's no need to think about a career, in the way that my friends who write in other genres might need to do. If I have a poem which is obscure to everyone but me, that's O.K. I'm likely to have plenty of other poems that are accessible, for better or worse (you can go here if you want to read more about my experience with the word "accessible").